High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: Springfield Southeast

The IHSA Class AA meet had two huge storylines: Chicago Lindblom junior Shamier Little's quest to win four individual golds and the quest for Charday Crawford-led Springfield Southeast to defend their team title for outgoing head coach Tom McBride (and in memory of the late assistant coach Dana Rountree).

The team vs. individual hype was fun while it lasted. Little got her hurdles titles (100 and 300) and 400 decisively enough, but Crawford had too much speed for her in the 200. In fact, with the 100 win as well and two winning relay anchors, Crawford's weekend could stand up pretty well with anyone's in the meet. She led a record-breaking day for Southeast, which tallied 63 points. Melrose Park Walther Lutheran, who moved up from Class A this year, outlasted Little's Lindblom team, 46-38 (all 38 by Little), to take the runner-up trophy.

The Spartans unleash full assault on the field

After Friday’s preliminary round, Coach McBride had to be pretty ecstatic with six total team entries into Saturday’s final. His group included two relays (4x100 and 4x200) and four individuals (Crawford, Brion Portis, Shawnise Stelivan, and Shaniera Wilson).

The team’s heavy hitters would be Crawford, Portis, Stelivan, and the relays.

Portis picked up big points when she won the triple jump with a fine effort of 39-2.5 nwi. She improved by over a foot from the prelims (38-1). Portis also picked up vital points in the long jump by placing 6th. Her teammate Stelivan did even better with a third place effort in 17-10.5.

The major fireworks though, would soon begin on the track.

The 4x100 began its defense against a solid field. The first two legs saw Walther Lutheran running hard and perhaps even slightly ahead. Stelivan moved incredibly hard on the final turn, and it was all Crawford on the anchor as she put to bed any thoughts of an upset. The Spartans replaced their own record with a new one in 47.53.

Crawford would go on to pick up three more victories in the 100 (11.48), 4x200 (1:40.38), and the 200 (24.14). As good as the 100 time was it was incredibly wind-aided (+3.8). Still, a great win is a great win.

Little was in the middle

Everyone knew this day was coming... but it was still unbelievable that it actually happened. Little accomplished a feat that no one other athlete in IHSA history has ever done. She competed in four pretty compressed events without any trepidation, winning the 100H, 400, 300H, and finishing second in the 200.

The arduous journey began in the 100H. At the sound of the gun, Little actually wasn’t the first one to the initial hurdle. Samone’ Thompson (Sr., Champaign Central) got there first. However, her lead would evaporate very quickly as Little turned on the rocket jets and left the field in setting a meet record 14.02. It would also be the best time of any athlete in the meet, legal wind or not.

The first real test would come in the 400 against foe and friend Megan Paul (Sr., Mundelein Carmel Catholic). Paul is having a great season and would love nothing more than to defeat her friend in her signature race.

The first half of the race Paul attacked the field while Little sat back and bided her time. Finally, with 150 left, Little pushed hard and ran even with Paul at the top of the homestretch. The pair wouldn’t stay together long as Little surged away to a comfortable win in 54.19. Paul ran a personal best 55.21 as a consolation prize. As well, it made Little two-for-two in the record department.

The third race would be actually be the defining moment of the four-event log. The 300H is arguably the most taxing event in high school track and field. It would be even tougher because it’s right after the 400, the events just 15 minutes apart!

One had to wonder if Little would finally break down after two days of non-stop competition. But according to her mother, their plan was already in motion and there was no time to think about failure.

Little settled in the blocks and ready… bang, the gun sounded the race and it was Thompson ahead of Little and the field again. She must have thought the only way to break Little would be to storm to a big lead. But that didn't work in the previous event, either, ultimately costing Paul a better time.

Thompson led the first four hurdles comfortably. Little began to move hard near the end of the final curve. It was the sound of the meet announcer that appeared to energize Little and the crowd more as she closed in on her goal of a third title. The final few hurdles were all Little as she stormed home in a fast 42.80 - her third consecutive win and record. The feat left the crowd buzzing in disbelief.

The final event of the day would the 200. This race was undoubtedly be Little’s biggest challenge in going up against Crawford. Crawford had enjoyed an awesome day as well up to that point. She bolted out fast and won the race easily in 24.17 to stop Little’s record-breaking win streak.

The aftermath was all smiles for Little and her family. Little’s mother and coach Tiffany Mayfield said an old family remedy of sucking on peanut butter with her finger or eating it on a spoon helped Little stay energized. Perhaps her competitors should pick up on this source of success.

Busch kept the faith in 3200 win

“Never give up, don’t ever give up,” were some very wise words bestowed by the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano in his regard to fighting cancer. Kristen Busch (Sr., Freeburg) may have heard these words somewhere before and applied it to racing. She admittedly was upset about being in the first section of the 3200 (slow heat). “I had one of the worst races of my life at sectionals,” she said after receiving her gold medal. “I was like I’m going to go out and run under 11:00; I just went out and ran against the clock.”

Busch set a high standard (about an hour before the championship heat) with a fine 10:54.74 - a huge improvement from her sectional mark of 11:49.

Busch said she didn’t know she know that she won the race overall until after the conclusion of the fast heat. It was unfortunate for Katie Adams (Jr., Marengo) and several other girls that they used the first half of the race as a tempo run. The opening mile was around 5:35 - pedestrian for a championship affair. By the time Adams decided to race hard with 600 to go, it was too late. A hard sprint over the final 200 would not be enough and she fell short in 10:57.48.

Quality performances all around

Adams would come back to win a kicker’s battle over Busch in the 1,600, 5:05.10-5:07.96. Adams pulled away with 200 to go to earn her first state championship.

MaShayla Kirksy (Jr., Melrose Park Walther Lutheran) continued the streak of a winner eclipsing the 19-foot mark in the long jump. It has been five straight years that the winner has accomplished this marvelous feat.

Sarah Bell (Jr., Bloomington Central Catholic) last won the pole vault title in 2010 as a Class A competitor. The one-time US#1 vaulter has gotten back to winning again, albeit it short of her personal best 13-0.25. Bell wasn’t satisfied with her 12-0 winner, but a gold medal looks the same whatever height was cleared to earn it.

The Lake Villa Lakes 4x800 would not be deterred by fast 2:17.9 lead off leg by Lombard Montini’s Brittany Fisher. The Eagles slowly chipped away at the deficit and used a strong 2:16.0 anchor carry by Danielle Griesbaum to seal the deal in 9:24.02. It’s the third-fastest time in the recently created 2A system.

Richton Park Rich South closed out the state meet winning the 4x400 in a record 3:52.64. The quartet of Cierra Garrett, Ninaa Edwards, Taylor Kriha, and DeAsia Garrett used splits of 58.3, 58.2, 59.2, and 56.9 to get the job done.

Little, Springfield Southeast Takes 2A Center Stage

May, 18, 2012
It’s a good bet that most of the of the competing athletes came to Charleston thinking about hot the weather would be. But after the morning session, it’s a good hypothesis they left thinking about Shamier Little (Jr., Chicago Lindbloom).

It has been well publicized that Little was going to run four events: 100H, 400, 300H, and 200- all in a day’s work. To a sprinter, it's like competing in an ultra-marathon.

Wow, did she compete.

Little’s day did not start out with peaches and cream. She spent the majority of the morning icing a sore knee that she banged on a hurdle during a drill earlier in the week.

Little showed no ill effects of any leg pain as she got out of the blocks well and smooth over the first hurdle. The result was a meet record 14.16 ran into a -2.1 head wind. Little quickly ushered herself off of the track and back to solace.

The next event of the day would be the first real test. The 400 seems to be a race that Little delights her fancy in. The question would be how would she go out and run it? It was just as many track jurists in the stands had predicted. Little got out reserved through the first curve and floated the backstretch; she didn’t pick up the stagger until the last 150 in the race. However, it was at that moment that she would begin to turn on the jets and pull away to a comfortable victory in 56.27.

As good as Little is in the short hurdles and flat events, she could perhaps be one of the best to ever run the 300H if she would take it more serious. But long hurdle race has been in decline in recent years and so goes the fanfare for that event. Still, it hasn’t stopped Little from clocking the US#2 mark of 57.83 for the 400 variety from last summer.

After just fifteen minutes, Little was back on the blocks and ready to go. If you blink, the race was over. Little won in a breeze and in record time too- 43.06. Her mark would be faster than girl in the mighty 3A would produce. It was simply amazing.

The final event of the day was just as thrilling as the first. Little was lined up in lonely lane nine and struck the competition like a rattle snake when she lit the home straightaway. It was then lights out all the way through the finish line in 24.57.

Little now heads into Saturday’s final with a realistic goal of winning four medals. If she can do that, she would most certainly win a team trophy all by herself. It would also mean she would take home memories of producing one of the best performances ever, girl or boy, in Charleston.

Springfield Southeast is ready to defend

While the fans eyes were on Little, the Springfield Southeast track team was quietly going about the business of defending their state championship for a third year in a row.

The results were solid enough to keep them in the picture but the Spartans are going to have to work for every point on Saturday.

The team’s workhorse junior Charday Crawford leads the 100 (12.13) and 200 (24.53) fields. In addition, she will anchor two strong relays (4x1 and 4x2) that have an opportunity to earn gold medals.

The supporting cast held its own as well. Junior Brion Portis leads the triple jump going into the final with a season best mark of 38-1. Although she is seated seventh in the long jump, her teammate senior Shawnise Stelvian has the fourth best mark in the long jump (17-9.5).

If every point counts, then the Spartans better hope that discus thrower sophomore Shaniera Wilson can move up from her 10th place seed from the prelims.
Believe it or not, it’s been four years since the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) implemented the three-class system for track and field. The system was supposed to balance equality throughout the class structure. Although it is too early to determine if having a third class was the right call, it’s not too soon to gauge the benefit of additional opportunities for quality athletes to compete in a state championship. Many of the supporters of the expansion are pleased with the outcomes.

Class 2A, formerly the biggest class and now the "middle" class, seems to be at full strength after four years. Sprint-rich schools Peoria Richwoods, Rock Island, and Springfield have added depth and talent. The distance powers had movement as well with Yorkville and Crystal Lake Central shoring up the division.

Springfield Southeast aims for another title through tragedy and triumph

The Spartans are in the midst of building a dynasty with two championships and a runner-up trophy in three attempts. This weekend at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, it could be three plaques in a row.

Head coach Tom McBride is the patriarch of the program who will be retiring at the end of the season after a 31-year ride. He has seen some good and bad times in his program, but nothing could be worse than losing his assistant coach and long-time friend Dana Rountree, who passed away in February. “It was tough… I mean real rough not [having coach Rountree] around,” said a somber McBride during a meet in March.

Rountree was a revered coach among his peers and his athletes. He was a “lifer” in the sport. Rountree spent his entire teaching and coaching career in Springfield. Among the pupils he was most proud of was Alexandria Harden. She won four straight long jump and three triple jump titles under Rountree’s tutelage. She has earned a basketball scholarship to Wichita State University.

The Lady Spartans have taken no prisoners this season, despite the emotional downfall that engulfed the team. The team has won the city, conference, and sectional in dominating fashion. The final frontier would be the state championship.

The title chase will begin and end with emerging star junior Charday Crawford. Crawford, who cut her teeth under the guidance of Harden, now is the team leader. She also leads all sectional entrants in the 100 (12.03) and 200 (24.53).

The Spartans will also look to deploy their speed relays in which they posted the sectional best in the 4x200 (1:42.69). The 4x100 also qualified and produced a blistering 48.43 earlier in the season. The 4x400 will be a wildcard event should the Spartans need it at the end. The quartet has run 4:02 on several occasions.

In order to complete their task, the Spartans will need assistance from a strong supporting cast. Junior Brion Portis and senior Shawnise Stelivan will command the long jump. They both have competed well throughout the season and should make the final to score vital points. Portis will double back in the triple jump as one of the state’s top jumpers.

Senior K’Leesa Gilliam will look to duplicate her all-state performance from a year ago in the shot put. She has the third-best performance during the season. Gilliam doesn’t have to beat the favored Lena Giger (So., Highland); she just needs to score points. Her teammate Shauniera Wilson is a strong candidate to advance to the discus final in an evenly shaped field. The top 12 hurlers will advance to Saturday’s final.

The Shamier Little saga set for the weekend

Let the chase begin. It actually began at the beginning of the outdoor season when there was talk of junior superstar Shamier Little (Lindblom, Chicago) entering in four individual events for the state championship series. This is nothing innovative for top level track and field athletes. However, what is different is attempting four events featuring both hurdle races and with one of them back-to-back with a long sprint.

Little flew out to the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California to test this theory. She competed in the 100H, 400, and 300H. The 400 and 300H were conducted within a 25-minute span that saw Little blaze 53.79 and 42.95 - both top ten marks in the country at the time. Those results proved to Little and her coaches that she had what it took.

Now, after easily qualifying for state in the four events, including the addition of the 200, Little has an opportunity to compete for a state title all by herself. It will be a very tall order but if anyone can garner 40 points solo, it is Little. The faithful of Charleston will have to wait until Saturday afternoon to see if history is made.

Paul focused on individual events

For the first time in her high school running career, University of Arkansas-bound senior Megan Paul of Mundelein Carmel Catholic will be entered only as an individual and free of relay duties. Paul now has the opportunity to settle matters in the 100, 200, and 400. The showdowns with Little and Crawford will be perhaps it will be the most intriguing part of the weekend on the track.

Distance running will have a new look

Last year, Kayla Beattie of Woodstock performed as Wonder Woman in the state tournament. It would be an understatement to say that she had the best performance of any athlete in the entire state meet, setting all-time records in the 3200 (9:56.96) and 1600 (4:43.65).

Junior Katie Adams of Marengo will be strangely chasing a title in the 3200 amongst strangers. None of the six girls who finished ahead of her in last fall’s cross country state championship will be competing either from moving up in class or running in other events. Even the Illinois Prep Top Times indoor champion Kristen Busch (Sr., Freeburg) has opted to run elsewhere in the meet program. Still, look for Stephanie Saey (Jr., Galesburg) to provide good company. Saey was the top sectional mark of 11:07.16 to Adam’s 11:10.20.
The 1600 will feature Adams, Sydney Billingsley (So., Normal University), Emma Preston (Sr., East Peoria), and Olivia Ryan (Fr., Oak Park Fenwick) as the prime targets- all five runners have run under 5:10. The state champion will more than likely run under 5:00.

Watch out for Sarah Bell
Sarah Bell (Jr., Bloomington Central Catholic) has quickly become of the best if not the best pole vaulter in the country. She concluded the indoor season as co- US#1 (13-0.25) with good friend Brittany Hull (Jr., Normal Community). That confidence has continued to produce great results as Bell is a big favorite win a title in a new classification. Last year her school competed in Class A.

The US#4 ranked Bell will take on all challengers and certainly the ones that Chelsea Bingham (Sr., Effingham) and from newcomer Hannah Swift (Fr., Canton) will provide. Both young ladies have vaulted 12-0 during the season.

Don’t sleep on the relays
The 4x100 will be an event to watch because of the thrill of speed as the well as the uncertainty of the unknown. If there are no mishaps in the prelims the battle between Melrose Park Walther Lutheran should duel for supremacy. Walther Lutheran has the top sectional and seasonal best of 48.37 compared to the Spartan’s 48.43 effort.

The 4x200 should be all Springfield Southeast. The Spartans are more than a second better than the nearest competitor.

Richton Park (Rich South) are the defending state champion; they also have the top mark of 4:00.74 heading into the 4x400 prelims.

Lake Villa (Lakes), Effingham, and Petersburg-Porta will challenge for the top spot in the 4x800 arena.
by Tony Jones- anthony.jones@espn.com

What was supposed to be an individual highlight show turned out to be a boys and girls team slugfest. Sort of...

Bloom Township (Chicago Heights) won their second consecutive Gene Armer Boys Invitational title with 77 points. The Trojans scrapped and clawed for points in various events throughout the early portion of the meet before finally pulling away from Triad- winning by 25 pts.

Bloom only won three events (400, 1600, and 4x4r) but still showed tremendous depth; the Trojans scored in 12 of 15 events.

Springfield Southeast showed they are closer to reloading than rebuilding after losing a fleet of talent girls through graduation. Despite a strong charge by Whitney Young (Chicago) over the final four events, the Spartans held on for a 47-43 victory. Team leaders Charday Crawford and Elizabeth Canaday pooled their resources with some emerging talent to secure the victory. Crawford won the 55 dash and Canaday placed 4th in the 400. They also won the 4x200r in 1:46.16 and finished things off well in the 4x400r with a solid mark of 4:10.11- good for 3rd.

Boys’ highlights-

The open sprints featured three winners: Julian Hylton (Frankfort Lincoln-Way North), Brandon Penrod (Triad), and Kaleb Williams (Bloom Twp) won the 55, 200, and 400 dashes respectively.

Hylton is a relative unknown to the IHSA track and field scene but not to track itself. The three-sport star had previously excelled in summer track under the guidance of coach Damani Shakoor and his Stealth Bombers Track Club. He went a long way on Saturday in cementing his way into the minds of his 3A foes when the state tournament arrives in May. Hylton blazed 6.48 in the 55 final and upset the favored Penrod very easily 6.48-6.58.

Penrod has enjoyed a very good indoor campaign in that he has scorched the competition on numerous occasions. The 200 final was close because of a talented field but Penrod was in control the entire way. He burst hard out of the blocks and held form through the back stretch and off of the final turn. Williams and company were stuck in chase mold for the entire way.

Williams may have surprised a few non-believers after his seed time of 49.82 popped out in the meet program. However, self-assurance that he could actually achieve the mark right now was never in doubt according to his coach Andy Schmitt. Williams ran 49.20 during last outdoor season which led to some pretty solid indoor marks prior to Gene Armer. The end result was an IL#1 49.78 performance that knocked the socks off of the competition and establish him the early favorite in next week’s IPTT Championship.

The 3200 had its own share of drama in the distance arena. Fans watched a tight pack of 5 runners slug through the first eight laps in 4:54 with Chicago Lane Tech’s Marcelo Burbano, Normal Community’s Ryan O’Leary, and Zach Kingsbury of Palos Heights Shepard leading. O’Leary and Burbano sneakily tried to pull away at the 2k mark but it was O’Leary who would suffer the consequences of the expedited pace and fall back.

Kingsbury stepped up and ran shoulder to shoulder with Burbano for the next three laps. Finally, on the bell lap Burbano turned on the jets and finished things off with a 62-second final 400. Perhaps, he could have run much faster if it were not for being so conservative in the early portion of the meet.
Seniors Rashad Hulbert of Crete-Monee and Josh Robinson from Danville were expecting a tight tilt in the 55HH, but instead the affair turned into a rout for Hulbert. Hulbert, who was the state’s top barrier specialist prior to the meet, remained in that position after a 7.64-7.90 romp. Robinson fought well but Hulbert’s technique and hurdle gliding was too much to overcome.

The boys’ pole vault was very thrilling. The solidly matched field saw four vaulters cleared 14-0 to the crowd’s delight. The next course of action for Joel Swanberg (New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central), Cirron Clark (Danville), Tyler Ginger (Stanford-Olympia), and Mark Panno (Pontiac) was to go to 14-6. Clark was the first to go and he clipped the bar on the way down to his demise. Ginger's fate was similar to Clark’s in that he had the clearance but the body touch prevented him from moving on. Swanberg didn’t fare any better than his three close competitors; he won the competition on less misses.

Girls’ highlights-

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley shouldn’t be faulted for being a two superstar team. Angel Gaesser and Sydni Meunier are two athletes that you don’t want to face solo. The Gene Armer meet usually means the season welcoming party for Gaesser and Meunier. Gasser was the first to compete in an open event. She took charge of the 800 championship just after two laps despite Whitney Young’s Shianne Baggett dogging her. Gaesser pulled away in the final 100 to win in 2:19.21.

Meunier took a more tactical approach to her victory in the 1600. The Notre Dame signee played follow the leader for the first four laps in 2:33- before turning up the heat in the second half of the race. Meunier took charge entering the 3rd 400 and opened up a sizable gap on Bloomington Central Catholic’s Alex Van Hoof, who previously led. Meunier passed through the 1200 in 3:48.5 and appeared to be shooting for sub- 5:00. She was able to reach the bell lap around 4:25 and clearly within reach of a goal that few girls in Illinois have ever achieved indoors. The final result was a stunning 4:59.73- a mark that is #2 all-time for meet purposes and IL#3/US#22 listings.

Brittany Hull (Normal Community) and Sarah Bell (Bloomington Central Catholic) are more than great friends. They are great competitors and that was very evident at the Armory in the pole vault. Hull is the US#1 ranked vaulter and Bell has the US#9 tag to her name. So, it was fitting that the winning effort would come down to the very end. Hull and Bell both cleared 12-0 to tie the meet record from 2005. The height was moved up to 12-6. Hull made the height on her second attempt but Bell missed on all three of her attempts. Hull asked for the height to be moved up to 13-3.25. It was unsure why that height since she already has the nation’s best mark and presumably the state’s all-time record indoors. Perhaps Hull was going for the overall all-time best (not sure what it is for Illinois since the event is still relatively new). Hull had the most of her three attempts despite having a sore quad. She hit the pole flush on the first effort. The second attempt featured a run up delay that took nearly two minutes to finally complete. That attempt was probably the best one as Hull got skyward over most of the bar but hit it solidly coming down. The final effort was slightly off from #2 but still worth the watch. Afterwards, Hull didn’t appear overjoyed: “I wanted to try this height… despite having a sore quad.” She indicated that she will shut down most of her training for the week leading up to IPTT. “Hopefully, I will be alright next weekend,” she said.